Due to a little ingredient called rennet, many vegetarians have been questioning whether their favorite cheeses are suitable for their diet.
Parmesan cheese is a hot topic in this debate. So, is parmesan cheese vegetarian?
No, traditionally, Parmesan cheese or Parmigiano-Reggiano is made with animal rennet, an enzyme that coagulates milk.
For that reason, vegetarians should proceed with caution with this cheese as it’s rarely vegetarian-friendly.
Read on to find out more.
Why Is Parmesan Cheese Not Vegetarian?
As mentioned above, Parmesan cheese is seldom vegetarian as it contains animal-based rennet.
During the production process, cheesemakers use enzymes extracted from the stomach section of a calf, often newborn animals.
It’s an essential factor as it makes Parmesan cheese thick and enhances its taste.
This is the case with most hard cheeses like Parmesan and cheddar, although there are some exceptions where animal rennet is replaced with plant-based or microbial rennet.
If so, they’re more likely to be vegetarian-friendly.
In EU countries, Parmesan cheese can’t be labeled as Parmigiano Reggiano unless made in Italy from these three ingredients: calf’s rennet, cow’s milk, and salt.
Another fact that vegetarians find unacceptable is that the extra whey produced during the making of Parmesan is given to farmers. They feed it to the pigs that are slaughtered to make Parma ham.
There is little doubt when it comes to combining Parmesan cheese and vegetarian principles – they’re not a good match in most cases.
If you buy Parmesan cheese from a store, it’s probably made with animal rennet.
However, there are a lot of brands today that “rebelled” against the traditional Italian version of the production process.
They started to include microbial rennet or plant-based rennet instead of animal rennet. Microbial rennet is extracted from good bacteria, mold, and fungus.
Plant-based rennet is made from plants like artichoke, cardoon thistle, or even fig leaves. This rennet is vegetarian-friendly, and most vegetarians are satisfied with the products.
Although not the Italian version or “the real deal,” you might want to try an alternative Parmesan cheese that didn’t result in the death of any young animals in the production process.
If in any doubt about whether Parmesan cheese is vegetarian, here are a few things to consider:
- Where is it imported from? If the country of origin is European or a part of the EU, it is probably not vegetarian.
- If it’s made somewhere in the US, it’s probably produced with microbial rennet.
- You can also contact the producers directly, via a call center or e-mail. It might be the best way to get definite verification.
- Check out the supply of kosher Parmesan cheese. Jewish religious laws do not permit the consumption of milk and meat at the same time. Therefore, if the product is labeled Kosher, it won’t contain animal rennet.
- In the UK, all cheese products with plant-based or microbial rennet are marked with a “V,” which stands for vegetarian-friendly.
Can Parmesan Cheese Be Made Without Rennet?
Rennet is used to solidify cheeses that belong to the hard cheese family.
It’s challenging to make such cheeses any other way. For that reason, Parmesan cheese without rennet is hard to find.
However, there are vegan versions of Parmesan that you might be interested in.
Vegans don’t eat meat or dairy, so products labeled “Vegan” don’t contain animal rennet. Vegan cheese is mainly made from nuts, milk, flour, and salt.
What Brands of Parmesan Cheese Are Vegetarian?
Thankfully, EU law that states that Parmesan or “Parmigiano Reggiano” can’t be made without calf rennet doesn’t apply to the rest of the world.
But unfortunately, the label “Parmesan” doesn’t fall under the same category.
Like the US and many producers, many countries opted for more vegetarian-friendly versions of Parmesan cheese.
So not only is using plant-based or microbial rennet vegetarian-approved, but it’s also cheaper. That’s why there is a surplus of these products on the market.
Vegan Parmesan cheese might vary in flavor, but it’s an option worth considering.
Here are some vegan-friendly brands to try:
Violife Vegan Parmesan
This brand offers completely vegan and vegetarian-friendly cheese made from coconut oil and Vitamin B12. It doesn’t contain soy, dairy, or lactose.
Parma Vegan Parmesan Cheese
This type of vegan Parmesan cheese has a similar taste to real Parmesan, and it’s also more affordable.
GO Veggie Vegan Parmesan Cheese
Animal-rennet and dairy-free, gluten-free, and non-GMO customers liken the taste to traditional Parmesan cheese.
Follow Your Heart Dairy-Free Parmesan (Grated)
This Parmesan substitute is made with organic palm fruit, sea salt, and nutritional yeast, among other ingredients.
It’s also gluten-free, soy-free, lactose-free, non-GMO, and dairy-free.
Other Vegan-friendly brands to consider are Twineham Grange Italian-styled hard cheese, Dairy-free Cashew grated cheese, and Monterey Jack vegetarian asiago cheese.
Vegetarian Brands That Produce Parmesan Cheese
This brand’s Parmesan cheese is an excellent vegetarian-friendly option.
It has a nutty, sweet flavor, and the producers say the aging process takes 10 months.
It’s recommended to pair it with apples, dried figs, grapes, or walnuts. Some red wine wouldn’t hurt either.
This brand uses vegetable rennet.
When it comes to its buttery, thick texture, it’s very similar to Parmesan.
However, it has a nutty flavor that the customers love. It’s often said that it tastes very similar to traditional-made Parmesan cheese.
Sainsbury’s Vegetarian Parmesan Cheese
This product is marked with a “V,” which means it’s vegetarian-friendly.
Morrisons Vegetarian Parmesan Cheese
This brand also has a version of vegetarian Parmesan cheese under their “M” section. You can check the “V” label in the bottom-right corner of the package.
Note: Keep in mind that many brands change their ingredients. It wouldn’t hurt to check the label occasionally, even if it’s a product you’ve been using for a significant period. Some vegetarian-friendly products a month ago might not be later down the line.
Are There Other Types of Cheese That Use Animal Rennet?
Many other types of cheese still use animal rennet in their production process.
However, if you don’t want to take a risk, it’s best to steer clear of these Italian cheeses: Pecorino Romano, Grana Padano, and Gorgonzola.
Some French-made types of cheese are also made with animal rennet as a coagulator: Camembert, Vacherin, Emmenthaler, and Gruyere.
Even Spanish Manchego can contain animal rennet in its production process.
Does Parmesan Cheese Have Cow Stomach?
Yes. During the production process, producers use enzymes from the calf’s stomach to coagulate milk and heighten the taste.
Is Kraft Parmesan Cheese Vegetarian?
Yes. Kraft Parmesan Cheese uses microbial rennet for coagulation and is vegetarian-friendly. Make sure to check the label before buying anyway.
Is Kraft Grated Parmesan Cheese Vegetarian?
Yes. Kraft Grated Parmesan cheese is typically made with microbial rennet. However, it can contain an animal-derived ingredient, “lipase.” Be sure to check the label for this ingredient.
Is Kroger Parmesan Cheese Vegetarian?
Yes. Kroger Parmesan cheese is vegetarian.
Thankfully, you don’t have to give up all kinds of Parmesan in your pasta dishes.
Many food lovers don’t like the idea that most Parmesan cheese isn’t vegetarian. In that respect, brands that started to use animal-friendly rennet are lifesavers.
Now that you know which brands to avoid, your search for the perfect Parmesan cheese is over.